Self-Propelled Particles and Active Matter

Presentation of the 2023 Doctoral Thesis Award by Dr. Valérie André, chairperson of the IPF’s Association of Supporters, Prof. Jens-Uwe Sommer, head of the IPF Institute of Theory of Polymers, and Prof. Carsten Werner, Scientific Director of the IPF, to Dr. Hidde Vuijk (second from the left)

Dr. Hidde Vuijk is the recipient of the 2023 Doctoral Thesis Award from the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden (abbrev. IPF in German) and its Association of Supporters. The award recognizes his dissertation titled "Self-Propelled Particles with Inhomogeneous Activity”, supervised by Prof. Dr. Jens-Uwe Sommer at the IPF and defended in 2022 at the TUD Dresden University of Technology.

Hidde Vuijk's research explores active matter, which possesses the remarkable ability to convert stored or environmental energy into directed motion. Active matter, often referred to as microswimmers, encompasses biological entities like bacteria (e.g., E. coli) and sperm cells. These organisms exhibit dynamic motion by deforming their bodies to swim in fluid, undergoing random directional changes over time. Notably, E. coli showcase chemotaxis, the ability to navigate toward more favorable chemical environments.

In recent years, synthetic active matter has emerged, comprising particles that propel themselves through self-generated gradients, mirroring their biological counterparts. However, unlike biological microswimmers, synthetic particles lack adaptive mechanisms.

Hidde Vuijk's work aimed to develop analytic models for controlling synthetic active matter's behavior in heterogeneous environments without relying on complex feedback mechanisms. His findings revealed that connecting active particles into larger structures, like dimers or polymers, empowers them with steering capabilities. For instance, the connection of two particles generates torque, directing them towards areas with higher fuel concentration. Moreover, his research demonstrates that short active polymers behave similarly to single particles, accumulating where fuel is scarce, while longer active polymers exhibit behavior resembling biological chemotaxis, moving towards regions with more fuel.

Beyond its implications in fundamental physics, Hidde Vuijk’s research holds promising applications in environmental and biomedical sciences, offering solutions for pollutant cleanup in water bodies and potential advancements in drug delivery systems.

Contact: Dr. Hidde Vuijk,

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